Estimating wind speeds in tornadoes using debris trajectories of large compact objects

Connell S. Miller aNorthern Tornadoes Project, Faculty of Engineering, Western University, London, ON, Canada

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Gregory A. Kopp aNorthern Tornadoes Project, Faculty of Engineering, Western University, London, ON, Canada

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David M.L. Sills aNorthern Tornadoes Project, Faculty of Engineering, Western University, London, ON, Canada

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Daniel G. Butt aNorthern Tornadoes Project, Faculty of Engineering, Western University, London, ON, Canada

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Abstract

Currently, the Enhanced Fujita scale does not consider the wind-induced movement of various large compact objects such as vehicles, construction equipment, farming equipment / haybales, etc. that are often found in post-event damage surveys. One reason for this is that modelling debris in tornadoes comes with considerable uncertainties since there are many parameters to determine, leading to difficulties in using trajectories to analyze wind speeds of tornadoes. This paper aims to develop a forensic tool using analytical tornado models to estimate lofting wind speeds based on trajectories of large compact objects. This is accomplished by implementing a Monte Carlo simulation to randomly select the parameters and plotting cumulative distribution functions showing the likelihood of lofting at each wind speed. After analyzing the debris lofting from several documented tornadoes in Canada, the results indicate that the method provides threshold lofting wind speeds that are similar to the estimated speeds given by other methods. However, the introduction of trajectories produces estimated lofting wind speeds that are higher than the EF-scale rating given from the ground survey assessment based on structural damage. Further studies will be required to better understand these differences.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This is an Author Accepted Manuscript distributed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Connell S. Miller, connell.miller@uwo.ca

Abstract

Currently, the Enhanced Fujita scale does not consider the wind-induced movement of various large compact objects such as vehicles, construction equipment, farming equipment / haybales, etc. that are often found in post-event damage surveys. One reason for this is that modelling debris in tornadoes comes with considerable uncertainties since there are many parameters to determine, leading to difficulties in using trajectories to analyze wind speeds of tornadoes. This paper aims to develop a forensic tool using analytical tornado models to estimate lofting wind speeds based on trajectories of large compact objects. This is accomplished by implementing a Monte Carlo simulation to randomly select the parameters and plotting cumulative distribution functions showing the likelihood of lofting at each wind speed. After analyzing the debris lofting from several documented tornadoes in Canada, the results indicate that the method provides threshold lofting wind speeds that are similar to the estimated speeds given by other methods. However, the introduction of trajectories produces estimated lofting wind speeds that are higher than the EF-scale rating given from the ground survey assessment based on structural damage. Further studies will be required to better understand these differences.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This is an Author Accepted Manuscript distributed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Connell S. Miller, connell.miller@uwo.ca
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